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January 18, 2010

Incentive helps employees find ‘home’

University program attracts employees to nearby neighborhoods

Lisa Balkum in her new home
Lisa Balkum, a secretary in the Department of Medicine, recently redecorated the third-floor room in her Warwick Avenue home. Last summer, she and her family moved into the four-bedroom house, which is situated next to a community garden. Balkum says she values the sense of community she’s found in southwest Rochester neighborhoods.

Employees who bought homes in city neighborhoods closest to the University—and there are almost 80 of them—have latched on quickly to one of their newest benefits: the University Home Ownership Incentive Program.

Lisa Balkum, with nine years’ experience as a secretary at the Medical Center, gravitated to the program not only to buy a house but also to help assess her finances and set goals for herself and her family of her two daughters and a son. She signed up for the mandatory NeighborWorks classes to get the City of Rochester’s $3,000 contribution toward a total of up to $9,000 available to University employees who buy a home in Sector 4 or 6.

Approaching its two-year anniversary, the University Home Ownership Incentive Program offers a total of $3,000 from the University, $3,000 from the City of Rochester, and another $3,000 from either Advantage Federal Credit Union or Canandaigua National Bank & Trust. The program is designed for employees who want to establish their principal residence in neighborhoods near the River Campus and the Medical Center. The recent extension of a federal tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers is expected to attract more employees to the University’s program.

“With the help of the incentive program, I was actually able to buy more space with the additional funds, and it was cheaper for me to pay a mortgage than to pay rent,” Balkum says. Last summer, she and
her family moved into a four-bedroom Warwick Avenue house situated next to a community garden and a half-block from a library in Sector 4.

Balkum knows Rochester as a native, and she values the sense of community she’s found in southwest Rochester.

James Myatt
Jason Myatt, holding his six-month-old daughter,
Ariane, is a scientist at the Laboratory for Laser
Energetics. Myatt purchased his home on
Rockingham Street a year ago as part of the
University’s Home Ownership Incentive Program.

After nine years as a scientist at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, Jason Myatt has a similar view on city living.

“Our neighbors are friendly, and a big surprise was to learn that people we already knew actually live in the general area,” says Myatt. He cycles to work almost every day from his Rockingham Street home in the Ellwanger Barry neighborhood in Sector 6. He and his wife, Marga Devam, found that suburban apartment living made it harder to meet people, and they decided to buy a home in the city.

Born near Birmingham in the United Kingdom, Myatt studied in France and Canada. “Maybe because I’ve spent so much time in Europe, I’m used to things being closer together. I appreciate that I can walk out of my house to pubs and coffee places. It’s not so easy to do that in the suburbs,” he says.

In the year since moving into their 1926 home with several porches and large interior spaces, the couple also has been impressed by neighborhood groups working to bring people together on community issues and for social gatherings. Since the birth of their daughter, they’ve met more families.

Both Balkum and Myatt toured more than a dozen homes each before making their choices. “My real estate agent told me you’ll know when you find the right one,” recalls Balkum. “It took me some time, but I really feel blessed.”

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